With the NHL season now officially on hold and early projections that we could be talking about months and not weeks before play resumes, what does that mean for other events that were originally scheduled to take place before this “new season” would essentially close? In other words, if the NHL Draft were to take place in June but the resumed NHL season now extends past that date, does everything get moved?
Some insiders are still suggesting this “pause” in play could only be a matter of weeks. That doesn’t seem realistic, not when you factor in quarantine issues, the fact players aren’t allowed to skate and meet with teammates right now and it’s hard to even stay in shape. The risk to injury or worse goes up the longer players are forced to sit. That leaves two options for something like the NHL Draft.
Do it anyway, but do it differently. Or, push it back.
Option 1: Do the NHL Draft Differently
Let’s say the NHL doesn’t move the date. They aren’t likely to hold the NHL Draft in the hold at Montreal’s Bell Centre on June 26-27. Too many people in one big room isn’t on the agenda these days.
Could the NHL do the draft online? Of course. It would be different, and in some ways interesting for fans, but it could be done.
The NHL lottery is expected to take place next month, the only issue is figuring out the odds for teams who haven’t finished the season. With an unequal amount of games played, determining the odds of landing in the lottery is a serious question right now. If and when that gets sorted out, how the draft itself will take place will need to be figured out.
Early speculation is that it could take place online, likely being streamed for fans to watch. It would hard not to imagine television networks like TSN and Sportsnet not figuring out a way to provide coverage too.
Option 2: Push It Back
There’s not much that needs to be said about pushing back the draft, only that it’s logical. The tricky part is, when? All that depends on what the 2019-20 season resumes.
There’s no reason a franchise can’t finish the season, immediately head to the draft just days after the Stanley Cup is awarded and hold a condensed version of things. Scouts will still be prepared and players ready to find news homes.
It’s just a matter of logistics.
Reliance on Video to Scout
It will be intriguing to see is how heavily NHL scouts start to rely on video to assess players. As of today, most NHL teams have grounded their scouts which means that, unless everyone is sitting around with their feet up, teams are relying heavily on video footage of this year’s draft class.
This isn’t new — it is something NFL teams tend to do to run their scouting departments. But, for the NHL, it might feel new considering this a group of scouts often resistant to big change. This would be considered not just big, but massive.
Add to that, the potential of no NHL combine, interviews will have to be done remotely. Everything becomes a first.
More importantly, if there are no fans in attendance, does Gary Bettman still get booed?
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